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Virtually there

Intrigued by news that you can now bet online at the same time as actual punters in a live casino, Gambling just had to give a spin

On the eastern tip of England, in the seaside town of Great Yarmouth, the Palace Casino attracts holidaymakers and locals to its gaming tables, not to the mention the bingo club next door. But in a new innovation, you can now join in with everybody at the tables from the comfort of your own home.

Of course, live dealers are being used by several other online casinos, but they all broadcast from a television studio (or, in some cases, via a second-rate webcam). The new website gets you right in among the genuine action of a proper working casino, with real patrons placing their bets, staff saying hello to the regulars, the clinking of drinks and distant whir of slot machines. No other casino is licensed to do this at present.

Gambling decided to put to the test, with a surprise lunchtime visit to the site. Initially we had a bit of a rigmarole getting started. We tried signing up using the company credit card, which wasn’t accepted, so we tried the Live Help. This was a rather clunky process, but we did manage to have a discussion with someone who after a few minutes was able to tell us that the card had refused because it wasn’t in the name of the person who signed up – it being a company card and all that. So full marks to PalacesLive for their online security, but slightly frustrating when we just wanted to get down to the action. Once we’d overcome the problem with an alternative card, we were away.

Friendly dealers Mark (roulette) and Ludek (blackjack) were most welcoming and talkative, helping us with all enquiries that we had, even indulging us in a bit of idle chit-chat, asking how our day was going and so on.

You bet at the same time as patrons sitting the actual casino in Great Yarmouth, as well as those playing online, and – in the case of roulette, as Mark told us – those playing on electronic terminals inside the casino too.

Minimum bets for roulette online are 10p, with a maximum of £50. “Place your bets when you can see me,” informs Mark. “When the camera switches back to the roulette wheel you’re no longer able to places any bets,” he says, before leaning over his shoulder and calling out: “Good morning Louis, you all right?” at a colleague walking past. It’s all very cosy and nice. We feel quite at home.

Over on the blackjack with Ludek, the minimum bet is £1 and we have rather a good run, end up comfortably in profit for our session. Ludek seems genuinely pleased for us. “It seems you’re doing rather well,” he says with a smile.

Managing director Patrick Duffy is excited about the high-tech venture: “This is no life-like game – it’s the real deal. A person can play at the table in the casino while a family member can play the same game on their laptop or computer at home. Not only are people assured of being UK controlled and regulated but the fact that other members in the casino are playing the same games puts clear water between this and any other online operation”.

After some initial teething problems getting started – which you won’t experience if you’re using a credit or debit card in your own name – we rather enjoyed our little dabble with, and we would definitely return. The plan is to check it out at a time when the casino will be busy, to see if we can feel part of that evening casino buzz. There seems to be no reason why not.

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